6 Questions with a Microsoft Data Analytics Leader

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Angie Rudduck works in data analytics at Microsoft. Read on to learn more about Rudduck’s career path, the tools she leveraged to get to where she is, and tips she has for anyone just starting out in data analytics.

[Featured image] A portrait of Microsoft Data Analytics leader Angie Rudduck

Angie Rudduck works in data analytics at Microsoft. With 12 years of work experience, Rudduck credits on-the-job training, certification courses, and blogs like Brent Ozar Unlimited, SQLBI, Catalyze SQL and Data Witches as her best learning tools when she was first starting out. “I used a lot of free resources—SQLSaturdays, local user groups, PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) user groups—and took advantage of my company's Microsoft Enterprise Agreement benefits,” she says. But she’s since learned that workplace skills like empathy and communication are also key to success.

Now, she feels most engaged at work when she’s empowering others, something she gets to do when she delivers trainings and creates materials that enable others to teach and learn about data analytics. “I've always enjoyed helping others, always being in a customer service role, even when I was just giving people my opinion about what movies to rent from the movie store I worked at!” she says.

Read on to learn more about Rudduck’s career path, the tools she leveraged to get to where she is, and tips she has for anyone just starting out in data analytics.

What tools have you had to master in order to be successful in your career?

As a database administrator, T-SQL and PowerShell were the best coding languages. Understanding basic database design, administration, and performance optimization helped me, even if I didn't master any single skills.

For Power BI, I used sqlbi.com, some LinkedIn Learning about Power Query, and shadowed training sessions I'd eventually teach before I learned it. I still didn't know it well when I started teaching, but being brave enough to teach forced me to learn more, research answers for questions I didn't know, and feel more comfortable at large with the product. Same thing when I had to start writing training content for Fabric [Microsoft’s comprehensive data analytics platform] in the last year.

Which skills are you surprised that you utilize most often in your role?

Empathy, compassion, intuition, and communication skills: Too often, people are only focused on their tiny piece of the overall picture, and can't understand or comprehend how the pieces fit together. Leading with compassion and empathy, while using critical thinking and problem solving to understand the issue—and intuition if you have it—and then being able to communicate your idea without upsetting others is invaluable.  

Basic Office tools: Being able to use Outlook or Teams effectively without replying-all to unnecessary people.

What are three key things that have made this stage of your career possible?

  1. Growth mindset mentality: Even if you don't know it, try it, knowing that you'll figure it out, and being willing to fail fast. No one is a master at anything, and certainly not everything, so don't compare where you are today to someone else or what you think you want to be. 

  2. Learning from your mistakes: I dropped exactly two production databases before I learned my lesson on being absolutely diligent about checking my connection before making any changes. I was fortunate that both times backups were readily available and nothing was impacted.

  3. All of the resources: Yes, you might have a favorite blog or YouTube channel you like to learn from, but it's always about the diversity of opinion and perspective. Don't take a single view as the only view. Learn from as many people and sources as you can.

I know cost is always a consideration—I've never had enough to buy a course. I leveraged companies willing to cover. For instance, I got a free PASS Summit ticket for being a co-lead, but needed travel and expenses covered by my company. So, try to learn from whatever sources you can, taking advantage of all of the various and valuable free resources, and jump at the chance for something paid.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self as you were seeking your first role?

On your resume, in each responsibility bullet, focus on what your impact was for the company (numbers if you got 'em!) and then what action(s) you took to achieve them. 

During interviews:

  • Simple, but true: Never, ever, ever talk poorly about a prior company, boss, colleague. You need to be the best version of yourself. 

  • Ask qualifying questions. I'll never forget interviewing candidates who we gave a hypothetical scenario to in order to understand how they would prioritize three separate tasks in a limited time (that we knew wasn't possible to do all in the time, but didn't share that). The only candidate who asked, "How long does X take?" was the one I advocated for the hardest.

  • Use stories, and if you don't have the exact experience but have the concept, don't be afraid to say, "If I were to do that today, I would do X." There's an inclination to say that you haven't done it, and that's okay to mention later, but don't lead with, "No, I haven't done that before, but…" Because they heard "no" first, they checked out before you gave a very valuable explanation on how you know it should be done, demonstrating your knowledge still.

How do you continue learning and growing in your field?

Productivity and behavioral experts like Brené Brown, Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, and James Clear all prioritize being vulnerable, courageous, and humble. You don't have to know everything to try, and even if you fail, getting back up and trying again is immeasurably important to personal growth. We can't grow without being challenged.

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Anything else someone just starting out should know?

Don't be afraid to try and fail. It's how you react to the failure that defines you, not the fact that you tried or failed. 

A few nuggets that have stuck with me: 

  • If you want to get a job, go stand next to the person in that role today. Learn by seeing, and then learn more however you can.

  • Have 10 years of experience, not one year of experience 10 times. Always look for new things to learn or new responsibilities you can take on—ideally after simplifying some other tasks to free up your time for new things. That way, when someone asks you what you've done for the last 10 years, it's not the same three things. Demonstrating growth is incredibly important to hiring managers, and even more important for yourself. 

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